Cooking With Pecans

Measurements, Cooking Tips, Substitutions, and Health Benefits

Pecans

Paul Poplis/Getty Images

There are over 500 types of pecans in the world, and most pecans in the U.S. are from Georgia, Texas, and New Mexico, although they can be grown in many other states. This smooth and brown nut has an edible kernel in a similar fashion to a walnut. Pecans are considered a tree nut, from the hickory species; other nuts in the same category include cashews, almonds, and walnuts.

Cooking with pecans brings a delicious, nutty flavor to several dishes and can be used as a coating for fish or chicken or incorporated into a salad; and, of course, pecans are always welcome in a dessert. Knowing measurement equivalents, as well as a few pecan cooking tips, will make using this tasty nut in recipes a cinch.

Measurements and Substitutions

Sometimes, recipes including pecans call for the nuts in a form you may not have, like the nuts out of their shells, or cut in half, or chopped when you have a bag of whole pecans. Knowing some simple conversions will make cooking and baking with pecans super simple.

If you happen to have pecans in their shells, remember that 1 pound equals 3 cups shelled, about 4 cups pecan halves, and about 3 3/4 cups chopped nuts. Equivalents to know when using shelled pecans are that 1 pound equals 4 cups and 1 cup of pecan halves equals 3/4 cup chopped.

If you don't have pecans, in most recipes walnuts are interchangeable in equal measure, although cooks should keep in mind that pecans have a more delicate flavor. You can also try substituting peanuts, pistachios, cashews, and macadamia nuts for chopped pecans.

Cooking Tips 

Pecans are delicious eaten as is, but toasting them will really bring out their aroma and add a nice crunchiness to a dish. To toast the nuts, preheat the oven to 375 F and spread pecans on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned and aromatic.

Pecans can also be ground into a meal and used as a wonderful flavoring additive to bread, cookies, and other baked goods. However, care must be taken when grinding your own pecan meal at home since the high oil content can turn the meal into a butter-like consistency if done too fast.

For a hefty price, you can find pecan oil in gourmet stores which works beautifully in many recipes.

Sweet and Savory Recipes

The most popular pecan dish is pecan pie, but there are many other delicious recipes that feature this nut, from crispy coated fish to chicken salad to crunchy cookies. Take your salmon up a notch by coating it with honey mustard and a pecan-panko crumb mixture; the result is a restaurant-quality dish. The combination of apples, pecans, and dried cranberries make a chicken salad more than just a tasty lunch option, combining crunch and flavor with a bit of nutrition. Pecan praline cookies bring the nuttiness and crunch of pecans to a melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookie. And pecan pralines with bourbon will transport you to New Orleans' French quarter; the buttery and nutty candy is hard to resist. You can even give regular maple syrup a flavorful twist with butter pecan syrup.

Health Benefits

Pecans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, an important antioxidant. In fact, there are a total of 18 vitamins and minerals in pecans. Nutritionally, about one cup has 10 grams of protein, 753 calories, and 78 grams of total fat.

This nut is also high protein, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Additionally, due to the amino acid L-arginine, this rich source of energy can nourish the skin and stimulate hair growth, allowing it to grow strong and healthy.